Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.

*
Colonoscopy  
Colonoscope

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Definition  

A colonoscopy is an exam of the large intestine, also known as the colon. The exam is done with a tool called a colonoscope. The colonoscope is a flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end. This tool allows the doctor to view the inside of your colon.

*

Reasons for Procedure  

A colonoscopy is used to examine, diagnose, and treat problems in your colon. The procedure is most often done to:

  • Determine the cause of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or a change in bowel habits
  • Detect and treat colon cancer or colon polyps
  • Take tissue samples for testing
  • Stop intestinal bleeding
  • Monitor response to treatment if you have inflammatory bowel disease
*

Possible Complications  

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a colonoscopy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Puncture of the bowel

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.

*

What to Expect  

Prior to Procedure  

Your doctor will likely do the following:

Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.

On the day of the procedure:

  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Arrange for a ride home after the procedure.

Emptying the Colon  

Your colon must be completely clean before the procedure. Any stool left in the colon will block the view. This preparation may start several days before the procedure. Follow your doctor's instructions, which may include any of the following cleansing methods:

  • Enemas —fluid introduced into the rectum to stimulate a bowel movement
  • Laxatives—medications that cause you to have soft bowel movements
  • Oral cathartic medications—a large container of fluid to drink that stimulates a bowel movement

For the entire day before your procedure:

  • Do not eat any solid foods. This includes milk or cream in your coffee.
  • Drink only clear liquids such as water, coffee without cream, ginger ale,